Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
III. War
Music in Camp
John Randolph Thompson (1823–1873)
 
TWO armies covered hill and plain,
  Where Rappahannock’s waters
Ran deeply crimsoned with the stain
  Of battle’s recent slaughters.
 
The summer clouds lay pitched like tents        5
  In meads of heavenly azure;
And each dread gun of the elements
  Slept in its embrasure.
 
The breeze so softly blew, it made
  No forest leaf to quiver,        10
And the smoke of the random cannonade
  Rolled slowly from the river.
 
And now, where circling hills looked down
  With cannon grimly planted,
O’er listless camp and silent town        15
  The golden sunset slanted.
 
When on the fervid air there came
  A strain—now rich, now tender;
The music seemed itself aflame
  With day’s departing splendor.        20
 
A Federal band, which, eve and morn,
  Played measures brave and nimble,
Had just struck up, with flute and horn
  And lively clash of cymbal.
 
Down flocked the soldiers to the banks,        25
  Till, margined by its pebbles,
One wooded shore was blue with “Yanks,”
  And one was gray with “Rebels.”
 
Then all was still, and then the band,
  With movements light and tricksy,        30
Made stream and forest, hill and strand,
  Reverberate with “Dixie.”
 
The conscious stream with burnished glow
  Went proudly o’er its pebbles,
But thrilled throughout its deepest flow        35
  With yelling of the Rebels.
 
Again a pause, and then again
  The trumpets pealed sonorous,
And “Yankee Doodle” was the strain
  To which the shore gave chorus.        40
 
The laughing ripple shoreward flew,
  To kiss the shining pebbles;
Loud shrieked the swarming Boys in Blue
  Defiance to the Rebels.
 
And yet once more the bugle sang        45
  Above the stormy riot;
No shout upon the evening rang—
  There reigned a holy quiet.
 
The sad, slow stream its noiseless flood
  Poured o’er the glistening pebbles;        50
All silent now the Yankees stood,
  And silent stood the Rebels.
 
No unresponsive soul had heard
  That plaintive note’s appealing,
So deeply “Home, Sweet Home” had stirred        55
  The hidden fount of feeling.
 
Or Blue, or Gray, the soldier sees,
  As by the wand of fairy,
The cottage ’neath the live-oak trees,
  The cabin by the prairie.        60
 
Or cold, or warm, his native skies,
  Bend in their beauty o’er him;
Seen through the tear-mist in his eyes,
  His loved ones stand before him.
 
As fades the iris after rain        65
  In April’s tearful weather,
The vision vanished, as the strain
  And daylight died together.
 
But memory, waked by music’s art,
  Expressed in simplest numbers,        70
Subdued the sternest Yankee’s heart,
  Made light the Rebel’s slumbers.
 
And fair the form of Music shines,
  That bright celestial creature,
Who still, ’mid war’s embattled lines,        75
  Gave this one touch of Nature.
 
 
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